Monday, October 13, 2014

Significant Ancestry

I'm pleased to present a guest writer, editor, author, and friend, Dr. Ken Horn, a 12th-generation descendant of William and Mary Dyer. Thank you so much, Ken!

© 2014 by Ken Horn
Statehouse in Boston, with Hutchinson statue on the left,
and Dyer statue on the right.
The statues face the Boston Common.

Anyone who seriously attempts to trace his or her family history knows the longing to follow the family name far into the past, and also to find an ancestor who somehow made a significant contribution to the world.
Alas, I can only trace my Horn family name back four generations. Even though I have serious genealogists in my family, they have not been able to reach any further into the Horn history than my great-great grandparents Samuel A. and Mary Ann Horn. That side of my family does have very successful people who appear in local histories and were recognized as fine Christians. (This includes Samuel A.) That’s important and I value it. But few will ever read the scant information available on their lives.

I turn to my mother’s side of the family to find the more-than-satisfying significance of ancestry I had hoped for—an ancestor whom history has not forgotten.

There are far too many deserving women whose contributions have been forgotten by history. Mary Barrett Dyer is not one of those. But she paid a dear price to be remembered. I will not repeat Mary’s history—it is familiar to readers of this blog. She died a martyr. But Mary Dyer was far more than just a Quaker doing Quaker-type things, for which she suffered. She willingly gave her life, making both a religious statement and a civil, human one. As has often been noted, Mary struck a blow in 1660 that has resounded down the corridors of time to our own day—a significant blow that helped those who lived after her gain civil and moral rights to act according to their consciences.

Though history has not forgotten her—and she even has her own statue at the Boston Statehouse and elsewhere—most people know little of the significance of her life. It is monumental … definitely worthy of the memorials erected to her.

Mary Dyer was my ninth great-grandmother. (That's grandmother with nine “greats” in front of it, for twelve generations.)

Unfortunately, when I was at the Boston Statehouse I didn't know that she was my ancestor. Thus, I took a picture of the statue but failed to get one of myself standing next to it.

I plan to return to Boston to get that shot. I also plan to find and photograph the other monuments to her, including the statue at Friends Center in Philadelphia. That institution’s website shows how the Friends recognize the importance of her contribution: “The sculpture of Mary Dyer represents the Quaker ideal of committed action grounded in quiet and worship. Her presence at the entrance of the building silently conveys to all who pass through Friends Center’s doors that it is a place of both conviction and contemplation.”

Dyer statue at Philadelphia Friends Center
 The statue at the Friends Center is intentionally identical to the one near Boston Common. In the 1950s a bill of the General Court of Massachusetts authorized “the construction and erection of an appropriate statue of Mary Dyer, who was hanged on Boston Common in the year 1660 because she chose the death penalty rather than abandon the principles of freedom of speech and conscience.”

I belong to a religious tradition that values the contributions of women. The weekly magazine I edited for nearly eighteen years published an annual women's edition and many other articles about women—both clergy and lay—who excelled in ministry and community service.

Many women have followed Mary’s grand example, mostly on a far smaller scale. Few have had such lasting influence. 

As difficult as it has been to trace some of my ancestors on my father’s side, imagine my delight when I discovered that my ancestry includes two of the most influential Christian women in American history: Mary Dyer and Mary’s friend and mentor Anne Marbury Hutchinson (my tenth great-grandmother) who made her own significant contribution. I am descended from both through my eighth great-grandparents, Mary’s son Samuel Dyer and Anne’s granddaughter through Edward Hutchinson, also named Anne.

This Dyer blog has provided a rich source of reliable information about my ancestor Mary. I also discovered another rich, and enjoyable, source.

I took Christy Robinson's novels about Mary Barrett Dyer with me on a recent international trip and devoured them both. Mary Dyer Illuminated and MaryDyer: For Such a Time as This were both page-turners for me.
Dyer statue in Boston
The three Dyers books are found at

I seldom read fiction, but Christy’s writing is presented on a framework of reliable, detailed history, so there is abundant information to be gleaned … and in an entertaining way. I felt the time I invested in these books was well worthwhile. Christy’s compelling narrative greatly aided in making Mary a real person to me. These are fascinating books that deserve a much-expanded exposure. They are simply outstanding, a feast for lovers of history and good writing. 

My quest for significance in ancestry has been successful. Mary Barrett Dyer and Anne Marbury Hutchinson have made important marks in our world. 

I’ll continue my search for ancestors, valuing each name, and the life of each one that served God and made some contribution—large or small—in his or her area of influence.

Those of you who are my distant cousins, in the Dyer and/or Hutchinson lineage, can share in this kindred sense of fulfillment.
We should all take the fact of this relationship as a challenge—to serve God and do some good in this world.
Peggy and Ken Horn
 Dr. Ken Horn is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God, and recently retired as editor of their international magazine, Pentecostal Evangel. This is the second article he's kindly written for this Dyer blog. The first was Where Paths Diverge: The Great Quaker Debate.

The Dyers books include Anne Hutchinson and her son Edward Hutchinson as major characters. Anne appears in Volume I, and Edward is an integral character in Volumes I and II, including having the last word of the final chapter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Reasonable, thoughtful comments are encouraged. Impolite comments will be moderated to the recycle bin. NO LINKS or EMAIL addresses: I can't edit them out of your comment, so your comment will not be published. This is for your protection, and to screen out spam and porn.